Used car values expected to climb before March

Alleson Knox, special to

UNDATED – There is no better time than now for buyers to purchase a used car.

According to Kelley Blue Book, car values are expected to increase 3 percent to 5 percent before March and well into the rest of the year. Though values were flat through the first two weeks of January, a handful of segments started to increase earlier than expected. A lull in lease terms and an aging fleet of vehicles on the road are expected to keep prices potentially higher than record levels established in 2011.

The biggest jump in prices will be seen in passenger cars, specifically mid-size cars and hybrids. Non-luxury cars and crossovers increased between $50 and $100 in the week of Jan. 17 and are likely to rise in the weeks and months ahead.

The trade-in value of mid-size car jumps to $12,203, while the used car value for a hybrid grows to $14,422.

For consumers interested in newly redesigned models like the Kia Optima or the Chevrolet Cruze, there is not a major difference from the original sticker price.

“Consumers eyeing one of the many highly acclaimed redesigned 2011 model-year vehicles for their next used car should be prepared to pay a significant premium,” said Alec Gutierrez, senior market analyst of automotive insights for Kelley Blue Book, in a news release.

There is a 47.3 percent premium increase for the Chevrolet Cruze, while there is only a 9.5 percent increase for the Honda Accord.

“For example, the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze and Kia Optima currently maintain a premium higher than 40 percent versus the 2010 model-year counterpart, significantly outperforming the Honda Accord and Toyota Corolla, which weren’t redesigned for model-year 2011,” said Gutierrez.

Kelley Blue Book warns consumers that no matter what vehicle they may have in mind, higher prices are the reality of today’s market, and used vehicles will only become more expensive and difficult to come by as time goes on.

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